• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

And the Discussion of Partisanship Continues (in a Different Form)

Let’s set aside the talk radio discussion for a moment, and move to the question of how to tackle the fact al Qaeda has released some propaganda hailing the Democrat’s win on Tuesday.

There are various ways to deal with this.

I would argue that the more analytical and reasonable approach is to recognize it for what it is, and what I called it above: propaganda. Al Qaeda currently sees Bush as the enemy and any defeat for Bush will obviously be greeted with glee. The notion, however, that al Qaeda actually wants Democrats in charge or even ultimately cares about or understands American politics is ludicrous. They are seeking to send signals to the faithful, and will take whatever they can get.

Let’s remember: during the Iranian Revolution, President Carter was the focus of ire from radical Islamists. It is natural for enemies of the US to focus on the most visible aspect of our power, i.e., the President. Given that Americans do this (i.e., oversimplify government as being the President), is it a big shock that foreigners would do so?

Still, we get things like the following for Powerline’s John Hinderacker:

But isn’t a reasonable starting point for that engagement the fact that the terrorists are delighted that the Dems have won, and are convinced that the Dems’ policies, as the terrorists understand them, will benefit the jihadis? Don’t the Democrats have some obligation to face up to the fact that the prospect of our disengagement from Iraq–and if that isn’t their “new direction,” then what in God’s name is?–is viewed with glee by the enemy?

Again: the degree to which that al Qaeda is “delighted” or “glee[ful]” is questionable. Again, what is the likely goal here? Clearly al Qaeda is looking for any victory it can muster in a war that is as much about propaganda and perception as anything else. And again: their target audience is not us, but rather those sympathetic to al Qaeda’s cause. Of course they want to cast the elections (and Rumself’s resignation) as a victory–it is essentially at no cost to them whatsoever. The CBS story linked above uses the appropriate verb for what al Qaeda is doing: taunting.

Further, we need to step back and think about how US government actually works when we attempt to assess what the Democratic victory actually means for US foreign policy.

This idea that the Democrats are simply going to capitulate to the enemy, and therefore they are themselves to be viewed as friends of the enemy is absurd.

There is also the fact, that despite a great deal of heated rhetoric in the last year, the truth of the matter is that the Congress’ ability to force the Commander-in-Chief to make radical changes to military policy is quite limited. We have seen this time and time again in the Twentieth Century, and we will see it again now. The Democrats are well aware that they cannot simply pull the plug of Iraqi funding while US soldiers are in harm’s way.

Will there be attempts to alter the course of US policy in Iraq? Yes–but dramatic shifts in the short term are unlikely. More to the point, if they do occur it will because the administration decides that the mid-term elections were a message from the electorate.

Ed Morrissey has a more reasonable response to AQ’s propaganda than Hinderaker’s. A key point made by Ed, and that comports with my thoughts above, is that there is no reason to take al Qaeda spokespeople at their word.

Some excerpts from Ed’s post:

Radical Islamists want to divide Americans in order to defeat us. They will play on our differences, stoking the fires of resentment and generating more hatred between us than we have against our enemies. AQ understands that the only way they can possibly beat the US is to get us to grind to a halt with partisan warfare at home, paralyzing our ability to fight them on the battlefield and sapping our will to put them out of business. This video is transparently calculated to give enough ammunition to both sides of the political divide to do that job. Besides, if we take Abu Hamza at his word about the Democrats, then we have to take him at his word about Bush as well, and about our troops.

The partisan sniping has ceased to be germane. We’ve already had the election, and the Democrats are in charge — and they will be for two years no matter what. Obviously, we will watch closely to ensure that they do not surrender to terrorism, but I’m not going to take Abu Hamza’s word that they will before their majority session even starts. They are Americans, and Americans put them in charge, and they have earned the right to show us how they will face the enemy now that they control the agenda. If they fail, I’ll be the first to castigate them for losing ground to the terrorists. However, I’m going to base that on their actions, and not on the word of a murderous thug who couldn’t care less whether their American victims are Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, or LaRouchists.

In fact, I think Ed overstates the degree to which this is even about disrupting US politics, but left the full comments for the sake of context.

In another post Ed elaborates:

I don’t take Abu Hamza at his word, nor Zarqawi before him. Al-Qaeda has made plenty of statements expressing delight that Bush continued to send American troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, enabling the jihadis to annihilate infidels much more easily. I didn’t buy that then, and I don’t buy this now. The Islamists have made a culture out of spinning massive defeats into sterling victories. If the wind shifted from the north to the east, these people would claim it as a sign of Allah’s grace on their jihad even if it blew half of them into the Persian Gulf. They lie for a living and a hobby. It’s the only tool they have to garner their benighted followers and convince them to die.

Indeed.

In fact, the more I think about, the more I wonder why anyone would take al Qaeda propagandist’s words seriously.

Of course, part of the answer is grounded in blind partisan loyalty that sees the Republicans as somehow the sole keepers of defense and security and the Democrats as the party of appeasers and cowards. Such a dichotomy is quite incorrect, but it does infuse the thinking of many.

The bottom line is that yes, there are policy differences between the two parties, but the choice not between victory and defeat.

It would help our public discourse (as well as the policy making process) if we were all mindful of that fact.

However, we need to get over such thinking if we are going to make real progress in terms of the appropriate response to terrorism.

[Cross-posted at PoliBlog]

Related Posts:

  • None Found

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. It may have escaped your notice, but this weekend the sane wing of the Republican party has been trying to stop rightwing extremists from advocating an American coup. Stephen Taylor, guestblogging at Outside The Beltway

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Original Article syndicated via RSS from Outside The Beltway | OTB

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. […] [Cross-posted at OTB] Filed under: US Politics | |Send TrackBack […]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Tano says:

    Step one. Pay no attention to the Power Lyin’ guys.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Hal says:

    The Democrats are well aware that they cannot simply pull the plug of Iraqi funding while US soldiers are in harm’s way.

    As they say, indeed. Still, as the CR points out, subpoenas can perhaps be useful leverage in making a change…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. We are in for some hearings. I would actually welcome oversight on issues like various NSA programs and the treatment of detainees, among other issues.

    The degree to which subpoenas could directly result in radical change in terms if military policy is questionable.

    That they could exert “pressure” is true–the question becomes, however, as to the precise effects of such pressure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Cernig says:

    Thanks Stephen, for articulating very well some of what I was not as good at saying in my comment to Dave Schuler’s post yesterday.

    Regards, Cernig

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Anderson says:

    Question:

    Who did the most during the campaign to tell the nation, the world, and the terrorists, expressly, that a Democratic victory would help the terrorists and lead to an American defeat?

    Answer:

    George W. Bush.

    In Georgia, Bush drew sharp partisan distinctions as he belittled the opposition to the war, which is proving a powerful pro-Democrat issue: “The Democrat approach on Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win, and America loses,” he said.

    So pardon me if I have a little trouble taking this issue seriously.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Terrorism and the US Elections…

    There is an interesting discussion going on between conservative bloggers: more specifically between Power Line’s John Hinderaker and ‘Captain’ Ed Morrissey.

    It started with this post ……

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. just me says:

    I agree with Ed on this. It is undoubtedly true that some of our enemies and almost enemies have expressed pleasure at the democratic takeover, but in general I think it is more to create the media propaganda then neccessarily a real belief that democrats are their friends.

    However, the words of a lot of democratic congress members indicate that they do not see Islamic extremism as a serious threat, now maybe that they are in power, their words will change, because now they actually do have some power.

    And some congress members have threated defunding of the war (Charlie Rangel being one) I don’t think the democrats are this stupid though-maybe Charlie Rangel, but for the most part they would be insane to propose it, even though they can do it.

    So I admit I don’t trust the democratic congress to be all that tough on this issue, they tend to think of it as more cops and lawyers than war-that is a huge philosophical difference-and one that if unresolved or pushed through could result in either success or major defeat.

    Basically-this is a matter of wait and see what the democrats do, and then praise or criticize rather than a “hey look the terrorists are happy, the democrats must be in bed with them” moment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. The Fight On The Right…

    Growing kerfluffle on the right side of the 'sphere. The discussion today is on the rush to praise the Democrat's victory on Tuesday by self-avowed enemies of the United States. My take on this is that if the Democrat's stances an…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. […] Unlike his distant relation Vincent van Gogh who cut off one of his own ears, George Bush van Gogh cut off both. What the world told him recently was too much to bear. His style (never as straightforward as some admirers would admit) and his world both became more swirly. His art and his words moved more and more in circles. His impressions mattered far more than what others saw before them. Still sunshine occasionally brightened his dark garden. Where previously Bush van Gogh spoke of traitors everywhere around him, friends now found the unrecognized genius speaking suddenly in a strange bipartisan voice. Such moments of sanity were all too brief. Reality was left far behind. Genius and the asylum awaited. In time, what sort of genius and art will be recognized in George Bush van Gogh? […]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. For what it is worth I heard Rangel interviewed late last week and he was rejecting any notion of defunding the war.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. Billy says:

    Steven,

    Amen, and thanks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. grognard says:

    LOL, So the spawn of Satan will surrender the US to the terrorists and we will all be wearing burkas, so what else is new?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Anderson says:

    However, the words of a lot of democratic congress members indicate that they do not see Islamic extremism as a serious threat

    Like whom? I hope you’re prepared to name names and provide quotes/links.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Bithead says:

    Again: the degree to which that al Qaeda is “delighted” or “glee[ful]” is questionable.

    Hardly, since they were quite vocal in their support of Democrats.

    Again, what is the likely goal here? Clearly al Qaeda is looking for any victory it can muster in a war that is as much about propaganda and perception as anything else.

    Wsell, then, how fortunate tat they have the Democrats and the rpess (granted, a redundancy) to do their work for them here in the states. And how much MORE fotunate that said Demcrats are now in power, according to their stated wishes.

    This idea that the Democrats are simply going to capitulate to the enemy, and therefore they are themselves to be viewed as friends of the enemy is absurd.

    Ah, so an immidiate withdrawal is not to be considered a defeat? Quick, someone tell the South Vietnamese.

    Will there be attempts to alter the course of US policy in Iraq? Yes—but dramatic shifts in the short term are unlikely.

    So, Rumsfeld’s head on a platter being sent to the DCCC isn’t an indication that policy chnages are likely?

    PLease.

    The bottom line is that yes, there are policy differences between the two parties, but the choice not between victory and defeat.

    To the contrary, the choice is exactly that, and nothing less.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Bithead says:

    Like whom? I hope you’re prepared to name names and provide quotes/links

    I’d prefer actions, not quotes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Bithead:

    So you are saying that you take al Qaeda at it’s word?

    That’s a rather odd thing to do, if you stop and think about.

    This is all about propaganda, not about honest reflections of al Qaeda’s deepest wishes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Greywolf says:

    “This idea that the Democrats are simply going to capitulate to the enemy, and therefore they are themselves to be viewed as friends of the enemy is absurd”

    What is banning NSA data mining for terrorists?
    What is “Miranda rights” for terrorists at Gitmo?

    When you want to handicap your own side; what is it called?

    People like Kerry and Finegold; do they think that we brought 9/11 on ourselves?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Hal says:

    Going to be tough going, Steven. Just from these few comments alone, it is clear that a campaign of “If the democrats win, the terrorists win” has had precisely the effect it was calculated to have.

    Hate to say it, but considering that’s a pretty dominate attitude, it’s going to make it pretty difficult to have any kind of serious discussion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Hal says:

    Btw, Steven, what would you classify this gem from Investor’s Business News daily as?

    Somehow “partisan” doesn’t really seem to classify it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. Hal,

    Sadly, you have a point. There are a goodly number of folks who buy that equation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Which one–the (Mc)Govern one?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. Iraq Al Qaeda Chief Says Democrat Victory A Step In Right Direction…

    Update: The boasting increases as Al Qaeda claims to have 12,000 troops in Iraq and gloat they are winning.
    If the ACLU saying Rumsfeld’s resignation was a step in the right direction was not enough for some people to realize it was a step in …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. Anderson says:

    What is banning NSA data mining for terrorists? What is “Miranda rights” for terrorists at Gitmo?

    I don’t know. What are they? Besides figments of your imagination?

    If data mining’s so very necessary, then let’s *pass a law enabling it.* The Republican Congress had 5 years after 9/11 to do just that, but they preferred to sit on their hands.

    As for “terrorists at Gitmo,” I do hope you’ll volunteer your psychic long-range terrorist-detection powers for the war effort. It would sure be handy for the Pentagon to have Greywolf available: “terrorist … terrorist … just some guy … terrorist ….”

    Failing that, the best device we pitiful Americans have been able to come up with for identifying wrongdoers is a little routine we have called the rule of law. There are countries which don’t mess around with that, and I encourage you to visit them. Stay as long as you like.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Anderson says:

    Bithead: I’m sure you appreciate people citing, say, Paul Krugman op-eds as if they were factual reporting? What? No?

    So if you’ll come up with some actual *reporting* on Conyers, Pelosi, at all, then I’ll be sure to give it the attention it deserves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Steven Taylor…

    . . . on AQ propoganda regarding the Democratic victory, over at Outside the Beltway…….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. Pug says:

    Generally when something fails as dismally as “if the Democrats win, the terrorists win”, one would consider abandoning it as a tactic. Bush’s latest approval rating is 31%, not one Democratic Congressional incumbent lost on November 7th and they gained control of both houses on Congress. I would call that failure on the Republican’s part.

    But hey, if they prefer to keep slamming their heads against that wall, I guess it’s their decision.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. just me says:

    Pelosi stated on 60 minutes that the war on terror “was the war in Afghanistan” um the war on terror is a heck of a lot more than just Afghanistan.

    Peolosi voted against pretty much every measure with regards to fighting the war on terror-now you may agree with her, but at the very least her votes against indicate that she either doesn’t take the war seriously, or sees the war as something other than a war on terror, which is my point. There are some real differences here in just what the threat is and how to deal with it.

    Do you really think Pelosi is going to be giving permission for data mining?

    Murtha wants to fight the war on terror from Okinawa.

    Rangel-do I really need to go looking for quotes, the man is a landmine of quotes downplaying the wot. Just google Rangel and “so called terrorists” you should get lots of hits.

    Now I do think part of the problem is that the democrats and republicans don’t really agree on just what the WOT is, and how it should be prosecuted. I often get the feeling that some democrats think the WOT is really just a WOT Osama, and not the various terrorist groups that would strap on bomb belts and fly airplanes into buildings. I sometimes even have the feeling that some people think the capture of Osama means all terrorism is ended.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Anderson says:

    Pelosi stated on 60 minutes that the war on terror “was the war in Afghanistan”

    In contrast to the war in Iraq. Context …

    Do you really think Pelosi is going to be giving permission for data mining?

    Can the White House show that it’s effective?

    As for the “war on terror,” one of the problems is thinking it’s a “war.” Counterterror is going to require some finesse, not just a bunch of Predator drones. (See our recent missile attack in Pakistan; were the returns of killing a few bad guys worth the reaction we caused?)

    Terrorists are scum, like pirates & mobsters, and should be treated as such, with an intelligent combination of military & law-enforcement approaches, tailored to individual situations. Or, to paraphrase a bumper sticker I saw last week, “‘Yeehaw!’ is not a counterterror strategy.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. The bottom line is that there are legitimate debates to be had about what constitutes the WOT and also as the proper ways to collect intelligence domestically and how one ought to treat detainees.

    Part of the problem seems to be that they think that the President’s approach has been sacrosanct. Based on what?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. […] The real irony is that I have taken some grief over at OTB for my criticism of Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt and my concerns about knee-jerk partisanship. […]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Bithead says:

    So you are saying that you take al Qaeda at it’s word?

    IN this case, I se no reason not to. Perhaps you can give us such a reason…. Explain to us how the democrats being in office, does not benefit the terrorists particularly when they’ve been making every motion possible to capitulate to them.

    So if you’ll come up with some actual *reporting* on Conyers, Pelosi, at all, then I’ll be sure to give it the attention it deserves.

    One word: Redeployment

    Which of course is code, in this context, for ‘surrender’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. Bithead:

    The very fact that they are a group of murderous thugs who are clearly seeking to score propaganda points is enough of a reason for me to take their words with a grain of salt (if not a shaker).

    It is remarkable that you would be so willing to take such people at their words just because they serve your partisan point of view.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. bains says:

    Who did the most during the campaign to tell the nation, the world, and the terrorists, expressly, that a Democratic victory would help the terrorists and lead to an American defeat?

    Answering GW Bush ignores the fact that the left, for the past three years, provided the raw words which Bush favorably synthesized. It in fact exposes ones own partisanship.

    …part of the answer is grounded in blind partisan loyalty that sees the Republicans as somehow the sole keepers of defense and security and the Democrats as the party of appeasers and cowards.

    Just curious Steve, is another partisan equally blind when they rephrase this as “Republicans are usurpers of constitutional liberties or agents for corporate imperalism”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. bains,

    There is plenty of partisan blinders to go around, including on the leftward side of things.

    However, just saying “the other side does it too” isn’t really very useful. Are we to say that what we ought to be doing is saying “everyone does it, so it doesn’t matter?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. bains says:

    Actually my question harps back to previous OTB posts on partisanship. For many, only the other side has “blind” partisans – never the partisan on your side of the issue. Someone even went as far as calling the other side disingenuously partisan, a fallacy of definition. Your usage of blind, in that context, implies a bias of your own.

    Now to the crux of your post, that al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, et al, have been mimicking the rhetoric of the left is somehow unimportant. It’s not just the right partisan that interprets the left’s comments as appeasement, its the jihadists as well. Irrespective of the home front propaganda value, our enemies are not forcing contrived interpretations nor false contexts, they are quoting US politicians verbatim. And therein is the problem. The propaganda originates within the left of our own country. Al Qaeda is merely repeating it. For opponents of the Bush administration to now complain that they have been miscast as appeasers or cut-and-runners is truly disingenuous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. anjin-san says:

    I agree with Steven. It is remarkable that Bit is happy to lap up the cream of terrorist propaganda, simply because some of it targets Americans with whom he disagrees on policy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. legaleagle says:

    Steven,

    I have to commend you for your reasoned position on this issue, but I also must express my hope that the Republican Party continue to feature the the seething stupidity of half-wits like Bithead or pompous buffoons like bains. Every time they vomit out their “Democrats-are-friends-of-the-terrorists” idiocy, it exposes the speciousness of Republican calls for bipartisanship, and provides perfect cover for investigating the Simpering Imbecile week after week after week. It just goes to show, you can

    never

    overestimate Republicans’ fanaticism, childishness, or comical lack of self-control.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. bains says:

    Replete with irony, legaleagle shows how to engage in discourse.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. Stupid Git says:

    The idea that Democrats are against data mining and wiretaps is odd given the fact that Clinton notoriously tapped phones and engaged in data-mining. What will it take for both sides to realize that choosing between Dem or Repub is like choosing between Gambino and Genovese leadership. They are both in it for power and while they bicker on certain issues are in the pockets of the same financiers.

    Of course, anyone who actually believes Al Qaeda propaganda obviously isn’t all that sharp and is no match for American propaganda.

    Good luck to those poor misguided folks who don’t see that their beloved leaders are not the mythical shepard leading them to safety but are instead the practical shepard keeping them safe long enough to sell them to the slaughter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. […] Those of us that expected the right to cool their ardor for extremist rhetoric were sorely disappointed. After all, many righties actually thought the election was a mandate for conservatism. So when al Qaeda hailed the results of the 2006 election, you can only guess the reaction from the right. Ultimately I’m with Steven Taylor: al Qaeda probably doesn’t understand American politics and doesn’t really care about the policies as long as George Bush is dealt a blow. […]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. stormkrow says:

    Just a thought here.
    Let’s see the War on Drugs (as we currently know it) started in 1988; since then the actual flow and use of drugs has expanded exponentially. It has done nothing more to disrupt drug usage or flow than build a few more prisons and throw loved ones, sons, daughters, brothers etc into said prisons and push them into a more desperate spiral of addiction. Of course we shouldn’t view drug addiction as a medical problem but rather a criminal problem although every PhD on the planet would disagree. Just a little fact people cannot deny.
    The War on Terror IS NOT the War in Iraq. PERIOD. The modest estimates has concluded that the “War in Iraq” has done nothing more than generate sympathy and aided in terrorist recruiting. So that didn’t work out so well did it. There is absolutely nothing anyone anywhere can say that would make War more attractive. Anything that leads to the death or imprisonment of any civilian at any capacity should be viewed as the last hope of survival.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  45. 1,890 days since WMD said he’d catch Weekend at Osama’s ‘Dead or Alive!’ Have you forgotten?

    To see your homeland under fire
    And her people blown away
    Have you forgotten, when those towers fell
    We had neighbors still inside goin through a livin hell And you say we shouldn’t worry bout Bin Laden Have you forgotten?

    “I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.”
    – G.W. Bush, 3/13/02

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0